KABUL: A Pashtun young politician and leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) Manzoor Pashteen – the man leading protests accusing Pakistan’s army of human rights abase, has been arrested for alleged criminal conspiracy and sedition. Pashteen was taken into custody along with nine others from his base in Peshawar. Mr. Pashteen has drawn tens of thousands to rallies in cities around Pakistan.
Former President Hamid Karzai has expressed sadness over a recent arrest of the resilient Manzoor Pashteen – who is at the helm of a major political party in Khaibar Pakhtunkhwa.
Mr. Karzai sought an immediate release of the resistance leader so as to avoid stoking flames of acrimony between civilian population and the ruling military government.
As the entire region is in the grip of extremism and terrorism, it is not sage to rack up new issues, and the arrest of political leaders who are in a fairly acquiescent democratic pursuit of their legitimate civil rights is an inconceivable move – which would spiral out of control and fuel further tensions, he said.
Mohsin Dawar, a member of the PTM said Pashteen was arrested in Tehkaal, Peshawar on Sunday night.
“This is our punishment for demanding our rights in a peaceful and democratic manner. But Manzoor’s arrest will only strengthen our resolve,” he said in a tweet message. “We demand the immediate release of Manzoor Pashteen.”
He furthered; “It is my request to PTM workers and supporters to remain calm in response to Manzoor’s arrest. We will devise a strategy after consultations. We are up against those who are most troubled by demands for constitutional rights, and we will continue doing that.”
PTM will protest against the arrest of its leader Manzoor Ahmad Pashteen, he said. “All those who believe that the survival of Pakistan depends upon ensuring the rights enshrined in our constitution, should join us in protest.”
Afrasiab Khattak former Senator and supporter of PTM in a tweet message said, “The arrest of PTM head Manzoor Pashteen exposes the colonial type repressive state policy against Pashtuns in general annd the people of Waziristan in particular. Instead of listening to their peaceful demands the rulers have gone for a grave provocation.”
His supporter said Pashteen was being punished for simply demanding human rights. The powerful military, unused to criticism, denies wrongdoing.
Mr. Pashteen, who shot to prominence two years ago, has become the face of the Pashtun Tahaffuz (Protection) Movement (PTM), in a country where few openly challenge the military.
According to media reports, the movement then expanded, demanding accountability from Pakistan’s army for alleged human rights abuses against Pashtuns committed during the war against Islamist extremists in the country’s north-west.
Manzoor Pashteen has been accused of “hate speech” and sedition among other offences.
He was taken into police custody in Peshawar but is expected to appear before a magistrate in Dera Ismail Khan, some 300km (186 miles) to the south, where most of the complaints lodged against him.
PTM is a Pashtun-rights group that has called for the de-mining of the former tribal areas and greater freedom of movement within tribal areas. It has called for an end to “extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and unlawful detentions,” according to reports.
According to PTM members, almost 30,000 people from the two provinces – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan – have gone missing over the past 10 years.